Medicine and Narrative (1S)


When it comes to the human body, scientific knowledge and narrative knowledge are seemingly at odds. The former demands dispassionate, objective observation; the latter invests our genome with the DNA of imaginative literature: symbol, image, metaphor. Yet clinical medicine cannot be practiced without a narrative patient history, and medical knowledge seems to strive for the archetypal shape of narrative: the medical crisis is a narrative “climax” of sorts that must be “resolved” by a cure. This course invites you to discover new ways of thinking about the relation between medicine and the humanities through close readings of memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, and media, as well as medical and scientific treatises. As you gain familiarity with topics such as disease and illness, disability, gender and sexuality, the human body, doctor-patient relationships, science and technology, equity in healthcare, pain, and bioethics, you will fashion original theories of narrative and healing at the vanguard of this emerging interdisciplinary field. This elective is designed equally for STEM students who are interested in healthcare and for humanities students interested in themes of malady, body, and identity.

Instructor: Dr. Blumenthal